The extraordinary experience of going into space does have one huge drawback; namely, the food.

As you peruse your school canteen’s offering, trying to decide between a sandwich, a salad or a main meal, spare a thought for the astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS), who don’t have the luxury of making such a choice.

Although things have improved since the early days of space exploration, when the only options were food tubes and dry, bite-sized snacks, astronauts are still required to choose their menus three months before they go into space.

A favourite is shrimp cocktail – one astronaut, American Story Musgrave, even ate it for every single meal, including breakfast – but many choose to also bring the cuisine of their own country with them.

As British astronaut Major Timothy Peake prepares for his mission to the ISS, picking a menu for his journey will be one of many decisions he has to make.

But before he can finalise his selection, the UK Space Agency, in collaboration with the British Nutrition Foundation and the European Space Agency, will be launching a challenge for students throughout the UK to create a meal that he can take with him. It must be healthy, tasty and easy to eat in space, and it should showcase food from the UK.

The competition will be launched in April, with all entries due in by the end of June 2014. The aim is to find a “truly out of this world meal” for Major Peake to enjoy.

Full details will be available in early April from the UK Space Education Resource Office and the UK Space Agency.

This week on TES Connect has been Science Week. Have a look at the collection of science blogs, resources and live chats that have taken place during the week.

Questions for debate and discussion

  1. Do you think food would taste different in space? Why?
  2. What types of things do you think would be important for astronauts to eat?
  3. Would you like to go into space? Explain your answer.
  4. If you could eat any meal in space, what would it be?

Related resources

Major Tim Peake – Britain's first ISS astronaut
Read a profile of the first British astronaut from the European Space Agency to visit the International Space Station. 

Train like an astronaut
Test your children’s space legs with this Nasa Education activity that includes an instruction video, pupil workbook and teacher handouts.

Space Monopoly
Space exploration becomes a fun, educational revision game with this easy-to-use resource.

Space in pictures
See what the astronauts see with these stunning images from Encyclopaedia Britannica that could stimulate discussion about planets, stars and the solar system. 

Healthy eating
Help children understand the components of a balanced diet with this set of resources from the British Nutrition Foundation.